Part 1: The Inalfa "panorama" sun roof. Scroll down
Part 2: Side exhaust. Scroll down.
Part 3: Flames on the hood. Click here.
Part 4: Side graphics and spoiler. Click here.
Part 5: Overview Thus Far Click here.
If the 1956 Crown Victoria Glass Top Were Built Today,
What Would It Be Like? Ford Won’t Do it So We Will.
The ‘56 version of the “full size” Ford was a nice upscale piece when optioned out with the Plexiglas roof, up-market interior, two-tone paint, continental kit, stainless steel trim and a V8. Today the car might be considered a bit garish — a ‘50s version of “Pimp My Ride.”
(The above ad is for the 1955 version.)
What would Ford have done if it built the Glass Top Crown Vic today?
Our newest project and show car will try to find out.
In CNW’s various youth studies, one clear and significant niche is the “cruiser” complete with big-time sound systems, room for six, custom wheels and low-profile tires as well as a whole host of aftermarket suspension, exhaust and power train add-ons.
So we asked ourselves: Can the Glass Top Crown Vic be resurrected in a modern cruiser package still bearing the Ford name and picking up some of the cues found on the ’56?
The Starting Point
We figured the best place to start would be with a 2006 Ford Crown Victoria which we purchased from Tower Ford in Coos Bay, Oregon. Best known for being a cop car or a taxi, the latest version of this full-size sedan is big, quiet, solid riding and fairly fuel efficient with real-world numbers of 23 mpg city, 28 mpg highway.
In the photo above, we've already swapped out the cheezy wheel covers for some Motegi wheels and deep-dark tinted the windows.
Most police and cab companies love the Crown Vic because it is virtually bullet proof (no pun intended). Ease of repair and maintenance along with a solid front-engine/rear-drive configuration and body-on-frame construction makes 300,000 miles almost seem like a walk in Central Park.
With decent “pop” from the 4.6L V8, even through its single exhaust, our base model lacks any bumper or side-molding trim and comes with some cheesy wheel covers. Door handles are black as are the exterior mirrors, lacking the chrome accents found on the upscale versions of the Crown.
The dove gray cloth interior is plush and provides seating for six with its front bench seat. Only the driver’s side seat is power but both front seat backs recline just like those 1950s Ramblers.
The sound system is decent with six speakers, CD / tape combination and an aftermarket XM radio.
The silver paint is nicely done, well applied and among the most popular colors for any type of car or truck currently. While two-tone combinations were common in the ‘50s, we elected to stick with silver to remain up-to-date.
What’s the Ending Point?
The final vehicle should have the key ingredients of a slightly modified 1956 Crown Vic including a modern version of a glass top, tuck and roll interior, a hint (not a slather) of stainless steel and other parts and trim that would have identified the original Glass Top as being slightly customized.
We scoured some of the Crown Victoria web sites for a sample or two of where we want to go with our Project Vic and came up with a few examples that give hints. Here are some of the photos we especially like.
The red and white CV is slightly modified and includes lake pipes, silver headlight covers. Both are worthy, in some modern fashion, of being mimicked.
The Canadian Meteor of the day was tri-tone and very sharp. It has a nice stainless accent on the lower front fender that’s worthy of consideration, again in a modern format.
The yellow and white CV was a great color combination giving that sporty flare with a classy stance.
While many have continental spare tire kits like this one, that’s impractical for our version. The 2006 CV hardly needs its design elongated with bumper extensions.
Since we aren’t intending to paint our CV two or three tone, the white hard top below shows off the basic body shape, also without a continental kit. Clean and classy without “Pimp My Ride” overtones. We'll take ours a bit further, though.
Note, too, the badging with the Crown Victoria scrip midway on the door (above the side molding), various V8 emblems and the “official” Ford badge of the day on the hood.
Also note in the top photo the location and size of the turn signals which could be mimicked with driving lights on our modern version.
Step One: The Glass Roof
For the updated version of a glass top Crown Vic to work, we needed to find a glass top. Nothing would be as important to the final project than this feature.
We scoured the web, went to auto shows (including the Detroit extravaganza) and generally were left less than content. Most sunroofs today are designed for small cars and on our Crown Vic would look like port holes rather than a true glass top worthy of this project.
Then in April we ran across an announcement of a new sunroof from Inalpha. Labeled a “panorama” model, it was shown installed on a Chrysler 300c.
With two glass panels — each measuring 24 inches long x 32 inches wide — it provided a giant moonroof-style top covering both the back and front seats. The large opening would make for great open-air driving. (www.inalfasunroofs.com)
A call to the Wixom, Michigan company resulted in some trepidation, however. The Crown Vic has a fairly curved roof (while the 300c is generally flat) and the panorama roof was designed mostly for sport utility vehicles.
Additionally, no one had ever installed this sunroof model in a CV before.
But that’s half the fun of project vehicles: Doing something different. Plus this was the best option in the market to capture the glass roof feel of the '50s CV.
Installing the Sunroof
After a few calls to Inalfa, we were directed to one of two installers in Oregon.
Tracy, the owner of Rose City Sunroofs, has been an installer for more than a dozen years. He’s a one-man band (not counting family members who assist with the usual small-business tasks such as bookkeeping) doing sunroof repairs and installations for local dealers as well as general consumers.
In his Portland, Oregon shop he shares with a race-car tech, Tracy juggles installations, phone calls, repairs and walk-in customers needing information or an annual sunroof-hardware check-up. He does it with efficiency and calm attention to detail.
After watching him work on a new Suzuki SUV from a nearby dealership, it was obvious he not only knew his way around sunroof installations but has mastered headliner re-construction and fabrication that looks as good, if not better, than what the factory installs.
The Final Roof Evaluation
While the next installment will show the complete installation process, a summary of the final product is worth noting first.
The interior appearance is fantastic. Looking up from either the front OR rear seat is truly, as the product’s name implies, panoramic. Anyone who has a conventional moonroof will feel like he or she is looking through an artillery bunker slit after seeing the Crown Victoria’s Inalfa unit.
The front half of the top slides back with ease above the rear panel. This “top slider” configuration eliminates the loss of headroom found in most modular in-ceiling sunroofs.
The switch is simple and allows the driver or passenger to adjust the opening to an infinite number of positions for venting or full open-air driving. Unlike other Inalfa sunroofs, though, it doesn’t have a computerized auto-close feature.
Because of the highly curved roof of the project CV, Tracy had to install some additional bracing and adjustments to make the two glass panels align when closed. Even with a valiant effort, the front glass rides a 16th of an inch higher than the rear glass, but nothing we can’t live with. With unique applications often comes concessions. This was one we were more than willing to accept especially since we have a plan for the sunroof surround. More on that later.
The two sun shades are similar to window shades, pulled from front to middle in the forward panel, rear to middle in the back. We would have preferred the front shade be stored in the center and pulled forward. It is somewhat awkward to attempt to latch the shade closed when reaching behind you while driving.
The installation box should also come with a template showing the maximum roof curvature the panorama model will fit comfortably. The CV is at the outer limit.
The exterior mounting of the glass panels makes great sense for the SUVs it was intended for. The nicely shaped and high quality material for the exterior framework would be invisible to anyone other than passing 18 wheelers. On the CV, however, it is easily visible. While not offensive, it looks added on which we will disguise with stainless steel trim in a later stage of the CV project.
This didn’t appear to bother folks, though. At a stop for gas, the kid at the pump was so enthused about the roof he summoned other employees to take a look. They hovered, poked, stared upward from inside and were totally in awe of the size of the sunroof and installation. It should be noted that all of these kids were big into the cruiser market driving everything from older Lincolns to mid-70s Chevrolets.
Another stop at the local Harley-Davidson dealership had the same result with a steady stream of employees and customers coming to the parking lot to take a gander at the installation.
SEE THE INSTALLATION AND HOW IT WAS DONE. CLICK HERE
Anyone interested in installing this sunroof MUST find a competent installer who is capable of vehicle-by-vehicle adjustments and has the patience to do it right, sometimes circumventing the Inalfa printed installation instructions.
This is not an amateur, home or apprentice installation. Tracy is good. Very good. And he took about 9 hours over a day and a half to install the sunroof and rebuild the headliner. Granted this was his first attempt, but even with experience installing the panorama roof he isn’t likely to shave off more than an hour.
Overall, we are extremely happy with the outcome. Aside from those minor annoyances mentioned, we are on the way to building a true Glass Top Crown Vic.
SEE THE INSTALLATION AND HOW IT WAS DONE. CLICK HERE
PART 2 -- Side Exhaust
Some 50 years ago, lake pipes were common on modified production vehicles. On our throw-back version of the Glass Top Crown Victoria, however, lake pipes would look pretty thin and not give the far larger 2006 version of this Ford product enough low-down "weight."
We turned to Bruce's Street Rods (www.brucesstreetrods.com) for help with installation of a newer version of the side exhaust. He did his usual masterful job spending the time to engineer the exhaust so it maximized ground clearance under the vehicle while tucking under the door sills.
As with our MGV8 project, Bruce does more than simply install pieces. He thinks like the engineer he is and makes certain all the additions work properly.
In this case, he fabricated the under-car pipes for minimum distance from header to side pipes, maximum ground clearance (nothing is lower than the oil pan) and braced (in rubber) the attachments for a rattle-free installation.
Besides a great look, the Crown Vic now has that Ford V8 growl that gives you tingles.
Here's a look at the exhaust as it was installed without the under-panel blacked out yet.
CLICK HERE FOR INSTALLATION AND OTHER PHOTOS
This single installation gives the Crown Vic a whole new attitude. Besides adding a ground effects look to the car, its throating note is pure American hot rod. Its a sound no tuner can get from a Japanese job and simply screams "Woodward Avenue. 1965."
That's not to say the exhaust is intrusive. Actually, the Crown Vic insulation is enough to keep the sound isolated to the outside. At speed, the low-revving 4.6 liter V8 is calm and collected -- and very quiet, even with the side exhaust.
But accelerate from a stop light or mash the gas and the small-block sounds like thunder. One mean dog. Very reminiscent of the good old days when Impalas and Galaxies met at the Big Beaver Rd. traffic light in Birmingham, Michigan.
Needless to say, some components of the stock exhaust system had to be removed. Thanks to the fact this is a show car in an area without emission tests, the dual exhaust system and low back-pressure mufflers without the restrictions of catalytic converters adds horsepower to this already strong small block.
While we wouldn't recommend the mod to someone with a daily driver and annual smog checks, for anyone in a state that looks the other way to such shenanigans might find the increase in sound and fury to be good for increasing heart rates a couple of dozen notches.
One drawback: Again, this is a show car, so understand we're not flaunting this modification in the face of the law, but we have to put up with the "Check Engine" light being lit. It was necessary to remove two of the four oxygen sensors. We could reinstall the sensors in the side exhaust and "chip it" so they wouldn't read a rich intake, but for our show-only purposes it wasn't necessary.
We did keep all of the hardware so re-installing the regular exhaust system is a matter of a few hours.
As with the sunroof, we recommend side-exhaust installation be done by someone who is adept at more than simply bolting on the system. There's a fair amount of cutting and welding necessary to do it right.
Could Ford do the installation on an '06 CV cruiser special? No doubt. Would enough people buy the option to make it worthwhile? Just ask the guys (of which there hundreds of thousands) who watch such shows as "Pinks" and "Pimp My Ride" if a large sedan with attitude is of interest. We did and the answer was a resounding "yes."
Next up: Adding hood graphics. Return soon.